PHOTOS: Huge tunnel-digging machines ready to change Mississauga’s transit landscape


Published March 17, 2022 at 3:04 pm

Is that a spaceship or a cutterhead? It's the latter, of course, as the 65-tonne piece of machinery is offloaded from a truck at the east Mississauga work site in December. (Photo: Metrolinx)

Two huge digging machines that will create the tunnels for the below-ground segment of a major light rail transit (LRT) route that will further link Mississauga and Toronto are nearly fully assembled and ready for duty.

Once ready in the coming weeks, the tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) that will dig the twin tunnels for the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE) will be set in place and begin making their way through the massive amounts of earth.

The ECWE is a 9.2-kilometre route that, when completed, will bring the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from Toronto west to Renforth Dr. in Mississauga by 2030-31.

A proposal to extend the ECWE an additional 4.7 kilometres from Renforth Dr. to Pearson Airport in Mississauga is also being considered.

View of the tunnel launch shaft in January as the first piece of a TBM (a front shield) is lowered into position. (Photo: Metrolinx)

Metrolinx, the provincial public transit agency overseeing the ECWE project, says much prep work was required prior to the arrival and eventual assembly of the TBMs.

“A very large hole needed to be dug, colloquially referred to as ‘the pit’ by the construction team. Complete, it’s 80 metres long, 20 metres wide and 17 metres deep, which is big enough to hold about 10 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water,” project officials said this week. “Lowering the cutterheads (front portion of the TBMs) into the launch shaft was an exciting moment; they each weigh about 65 tonnes and were lowered by crane.”

Work has progressed since that moment, Metrolinx adds, noting work crews were busy through January and February.

“The tunnel launch shaft looks quite a bit different today compared to the day the first piece was lowered,” officials said.

When finished, the ECWE will operate underground from Renforth Dr. in Mississauga to just west of Scarlett Rd. in Toronto, where it will then transition to a 1.5-km elevated section that runs east of Jane St. before heading underground again and connecting to the future Mount Dennis Station.

Metrolinx says the elevated section will run along the north side of Eglinton Ave. W. and will be built as close as possible to the road and maintain easy access to Fergy Brown, Eglinton Flats and Pearen parks.

The TBMs, nicknamed Renny and Rexy for the route’s proximity to Renforth Station in Mississauga and the Rexdale neighbourhood in nearby west Toronto, are expected to be lowered into the ground and begin digging this spring.

One of the cutterheads is lowered into the launch shaft, where it was attached to the front of a TBM, shown in photo below. (Photos: Metrolinx)

With much fanfare, key parts of the TBMs arrived from Germany by cargo ship in Hamilton in December. They were then trucked with police escort up the QEW to the east Mississauga work site.

The cutterheads for Rexy and Renny, each weighing some 65 tonnes and measuring 6.5 metres in diameter, arrived at the ECWE tunnel launch site by truck just before Christmas.

They had arrived in Hamilton one week earlier after a cross-Atlantic cargo ship journey of some 11,000 kilometres from Germany that took more than three weeks.


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